Looking ahead to 2010

Part of the fun of college football is looking ahead to next season.
Well UCLA fans, perhaps it’s time to avert your eyes.

Despite all the positive inertia developed in Rick Neuheisel: Year 2 – a 7-6 record including an EagleBank Bowl win after the 4-8 mockery that was last season – the Bruins are lined up for a difficult 2010.

Of UCLA’s 11 All-Pac-10 selections, just five return, including only three who were named to the first or second teams – sophomore safety Rahim Moore, junior kicker Kai Forbath and freshman punter Jeff Locke.

Goodbye, Reggie Carter and Alterraun Verner. So long, Brian Price and Korey Bosworth. Sayonara, Terrence Austin and Xavier Su’a-Filo.

“It’s going to be a definite challenge to get all those guys replaced and to play the same kind of consistent defense and even try to improve,” UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel said. “That’s going to be a tall order. We’ll have to do a great job in the offseason of not only evaluating our talent but our scheme.”


As any football mind will tell you, though, it’s not what they lose at the top that matters.

The Bruins lose five defensive starters to graduation – linebackers Carter and Kyle Bosworth, defensive linemen Korey Bosworth and Jerzy Siewierski and cornerback Verner – and brick-wall defensive tackle Price announced after the bowl win that he’d declare for the NFL Draft a year early.

Now UCLA is charged with rebuilding the nation’s No. 39 defense, a unit that held Temple to only 41 second-half yards in the EagleBank Bowl.

“That’s the beauty of college football – that there are those transitions,” Neuheisel said. “Where young guys become old guys and followers become leaders. That’s all healthy. We have guys there who are very equipped to take that next step.”

The interior defensive line is certainly hit the hardest by attrition, as only junior David Carter returns with extensive playing time. The Bruins have junior Andy Keane and sophomore Justin Edison waiting in the wings, with two verbal commitments in Bellevue (Wash.) High’s Julious Moore and Fresno Edison’s Wesley Flowers. They hope to land a major defensive tackle who can play immediately, such as Brighton (Utah) High’s Ricky Heimuli. Freshmen Iuta Tepa, Keenan Graham and Damien Holmes will likely compete for the defensive end spot opposite Datone Jones.

At linebacker, sophomore Akeem Ayers will return to lead the defense, but UCLA’s other two spots are up for grabs between sophomores Steve Sloan and Sean Westgate and freshman Patrick Larimore. The Bruins have verbal commitments from Woodberry Forrest (Va.) High’s Aramide Olaniyan and Fresno Hoover’s Eric Kendricks and are making a major push for Crenshaw’s Hayes Pullard.

With Moore and his nation-leading 10 interceptions returning at safety, the defensive backfield will be UCLA’s biggest defensive strength. Freshmen cornerbacks Sheldon Price, Aaron Hester and Andrew Abbott return at cornerback – with a big verbal commit in Los Alamitos’ Shaquille Richardson on the way – and sophomores Tony Dye and Glenn Love will again duke it out for the other safety spot.

“I know we were inexperienced at some positions and we have to address that,” Neuheisel said. “We have to make sure we have the necessary skill to play the scheme we’re playing. That’s a standard answer – but you just have to make sure you’re being prudent.”

As the defense sags, however, the Bruins hope the commitment to youth they’ve made in 2009 will pay dividends.

Though the team loses running back Chane Moline, tight ends Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya and receiver/returner Terrence Austin – who moved into second place on UCLA’s all-time all-purpose yardage list – every unit returns key starters.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince will be back along with freshman Richard Brehaut and the nation’s No. 20 recruit in Monte Vista’s Brett Nottingham. The running game returns sophomore Derrick Coleman and freshmen Johnathan Franklin, Milton Knox and Damien Thigpen, with two huge verbal commitments from Oaks Christian’s Malcolm Jones and Corona’s Jordon James.

With sophomores Nelson Rosario, Taylor Embree and Antwon Moutra back and the expected ascension of freshmen Randall Carroll, Morrell Presley, Jerry Johnson and Ricky Marvray – plus the addition of Serra’s Paul Richardson, a verbal commit – the receiving corps appears to be in sure hands.

Though the loss of All-Pac-10 honorable mention Xavier Su’a-Filo to his LDS mission leaves a gaping hole at left tackle, the offensive line returns with 60 combined starts and four starters in tackle Mike Harris, guards Jeff Baca and Eddie Williams and center Kai Maiava. Add verbal commitments from guard Chris Ward of Mater Dei, the No. 4 guard in the country by Scout.com, and Saguaro (Ariz.) High tackle Kody Innes, and the line should be in good shape.

“The torch really needs to be passed – the defense in essence has carried the team for a couple years, made sure they were the rock, the more solid consistent side of the ball,” Neuheisel said. “Hopefully as we enter next year and have some experience under our belts, the offense can return the favor.”

But then there’s that schedule…

UCLA’s non-conference tilt next season ranks up there with the most challenging in the country, as the tried-and-true theory of scheduling patsies to build the resume just wasn’t put into action. There’s the Week 1 road test at Kansas State, which, after consecutive 5-7 seasons, moved back to .500 with the rejuvenated Bill Snyder. There’s the home game with Houston, 36-18 over the last four years with five straight bowl appearances, a 10-4 record in 2009 and the top returning quarterback in the country in Case Keenum, who threw for 5,671 yards and 44 scores.

And then there’s that visit to pesky upstart Texas, who just might win the national championship this season.

“You know what, I’ve known all along that UCLA is the type of school that wants to be aggressive with scheduling,” Neuheisel said. “It’s part of who we are, it’s what we’ve been about. I don’t spend any time worrying about it. But it isn’t the best way to pave your way toward instant success. It’s not the formula that many teams use.”

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  • Reformed Droog

    “Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.” -John Wooden

    (The way people on this blog tend to be fickle and less than admiring, I’d say we’re hitting the state limits, Coach.)

  • bruwin5931

    Overall, I think our team will continue to improve; we have some good players ready to step up and contribute. Add in another strong recruiting class, and we will have some underclassmen who can play right away as well.

    However, our 2010 record may not show the progress. Jon brings up a good point; our schedule is pretty brutal. In addition to the non-conference schedule, the Pac-10 should still be pretty difficult (despite the conference’s current bowl record). It won’t be a stretch to say that we end up with a similar record as this year.

  • Bob

    Forbath may also be gone. We know we can beat KSU, Houston looked bad in their bowl, and Texas may get killed in the BCS game – plus they lose a lot of talent. Not unrealistic that we win 2 of 3 and come close against Texas.

  • Blue Bruin

    Looking ahead is not fun if the team is going to be worse!

  • Anonymous

    UCLA will get a five star commit.

  • Anonymous

    Robert Woods is a silent commit to UCLA, thats a rumor.

  • Bruin1970

    Jon, you overlooked the tight ends in your look forward. Harkey and Fauria will be solid there. Who do we have at fullback besides Umodu, next year. Can Coleman be converted to fullback? Nelson Roasrio is an emerging All-American if he will play consitently.
    8 and 4 looks very possible in 2010.

  • Anonymous

    Jayson Allmond will be a RS freshman fullback next year. Don’t know how he plays, but the way he looks reminds me of Michael Pitre so he could end up being solid.

  • Greg

    I look for Golper and Bowens to be the starting linebackers to replace Carter and Bosworth.

    I also expect the JC transfer, Jackson, to be the starter opposite Jones in the DL.

    I expect Kia to start on the OL next year, and maybe Abele. Williams could move to DT.

  • Anonymous

    Dohn doesn’t deal with rumors. Neither do Bruins fans want rumors. We want facts! If Woods is a silent commit to UCLA, why is he still “committed” to u$c?

    Maybe Paul Richardson can make a push for his H.S. teammates, Woods and Farmer, to join him in Westwood. That would be great but it’s just rumors or flat out ridulous right now. I’ll believe it when Woods officially decommit to u$c and commits to UCLA.

  • AV Hill

    Jon-

    Please comment on the progression of Fauria and Josh Smith. It sounds as though they will add a lot of spark to the offense.

    AV Hill

  • Oxy

    The robert woods rumor needs to stop, that kid is a solid trojan

  • Mario DiLeo

    After getting on Fox Sports West to profess his love for the ketchup & mustard, there’s no way Robert Woods is coming to UCLA. Besides, we’re set at WR so we’ll save that scholie for another lineman…

  • samohopar

    Without a solid line on offense or defense, the skill players can do little to nothing. A great line makes an average RB look great. A crappy line makes a great RB look average. Football begins and ends with the lines on both offense and defense. Neuheisel should be spending all of his recruiting time making sure those needs are met because otherwise it won’t matter how much talent we have at the skills positions.

  • barrya

    I agree with samohopar – the lines have it. And at LB we’re losing a LOT of experience adn that matters. On the OL, while we will have more upperclassmen than this year, the depth will be very inexperienced. And, while having a sophomore QB is better than having to go with a freshman, it’s still not like being able to start a talented junior or senior.

    I think we’ll be strong at DE but, with two of the three LBs inexperienced and unproven, the DTs are going to have to step up significantly to keep the opposing OLs off our LBs so they can make plays.

    In think 2010 is a year in which we will improve in some areas (QB, TB, WR, TE. DBackfield), but will have to bring some other areas back up (DT, LB, CB), and will just have to keep working to develop a really good OL. The schedule will be fearsome, among the very toughest in the nation assuming the Pac10 stays strong. Results may well wind up similar to this year, especially with Oregon, Cal and ASU all road games. Maybe 7 wins regular season likely the over-under i would think. But in 2011, this team is going to emerge on the national scene. Program is on schedule so long as CRN continues to do so well in recruiting.

  • samohopar

    I just want to add something about the schedule next year. It’s daunting but not as bad as it may seem. Houston and Kstate are tough, but beatable. Just ask Air Force about Houston. Don’t forget, Houston doesn’t play D, and I have no respect for any team that doesn’t play D. Kstate should be better, but so should we. Texas a for sure loss? So was Tenn. two years in a row. Frankly, if the O-line plays better than it did this year, our O should be much, much improved. Yes that’s a big if and X will be missed but eddie williams should be back and 4/5 starters returning ain’t too shabby. Even with all the losses, I expect the D to perform at about the same level. Bullough should be much improved. He has shown to be masterful at halftime adjustments, and someone that good at making on the fly adjustments can only get better at first half game planning. So go out and buy season tickets, have kick-ass tailgates, and invite me cuz none of my lame ass friends are into football :)

  • anonymous

    “positive inertia?” Someone needs an editor here…

  • Anonymous

    “lame commenting-ia?” someone needs to stop commenting here…

  • Anonymous

    Bullough is a terrible leader. Hopefully , he will be gone after this next season. There is not one player that likes playing for him. The defense did well this year because there were experienced players. Wait until that experience is gone.

  • marosia

    It will be great to watch UCLA Bruins, i have bought tickets from
    http://ticketfront.com/event/UCLA_Bruins-tickets looking forward to it.